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Manufacturer BMW
Production September 20, 1995–June 28, 2002[1]
Assembly Greer, South Carolina, United States (BMW US Mfg. Comp.)
Designer Joji Nagashima (1992)
Body and chassis
Class Compact luxury sports car (S)
Body style 2-door roadster
2-door coupé
Layout FR layout
Related BMW 3 Series (E36)
Transmission 4-Speed Automatic
5-Speed Manual
Wheelbase 96.8 in (2,459 mm)
Length 158.5 in (4,026 mm)
Width 66.6 in (1,692 mm) (1996-1998)
68.5 in (1,740 mm) (1999-2002)
Height 49.8 in (1,265 mm) (Roadster)
50.4 in (1,280 mm) (Coupe)
Curb weight 2,557–2,976 lb (1,160–1,350 kg)
Predecessor BMW Z1
Successor BMW Z4

The BMW Z3 was BMW's first mass produced mass market roadster, and was the first new BMW model to be manufactured in the United States. E36/7 refers to the roadster variant of the Z3 which was introduced in 1995, and E36/8 refers to the coupe variant of the Z3 which was released in 1999. The Z in Z1, Z3, Z4, Z8 stands for Zukunft, which is German for future. The BMW Z3 was introduced via video press release by BMW North America on June 12, 1995 and made a short appearance in the James Bond film GoldenEye on November 17, 1995. Karen Sortito was responsible for the campaign, and sales of the Z3 spiked as the film sat at number one at the Box Office. In the 1996 production run, more than 15,000 roadsters were sold out by the time the car was introduced.[2] A facelift for the car was introduced in 2000, and the Z3 ended production in 2002 when it was replaced by the BMW Z4.


The E36/7 (roadster) Z3 went into development in 1991 under Dr. Burkhard Göschel for 38 months. The exterior was designed by Joji Nagashima of the BMW Design Team in July 1992, which was then frozen in 1993 to be developed into the E36 platform to production in September 1995.[3] The rear semi-trailing arm suspension was used from the BMW E30, and not the E36. Design patents were filed on April 2, 1994 in Germany and in September 27, 1994 in the US.[4]

Production of the facelifted Z3 models began in April 1999 as a 2000 model year. Changes included new engines and cosmetics but did not apply on Z3M models, which featured only a few changes and a different engine. Upon release, the facelifted Z3 was not up to many buyers' expectations because the interior wasn't up to the standards of other BMW models (editor's note: the 1999-2001 Miata NB had a plastic rear window, so I eliminated that statement). The facelift included updated and higher quality materials.

Engines and Model Lineup[edit]

All 4-cylinder Z3's featured one exhaust pipe and a normal body kit. All 6-cylinder Z3's had 2 exhaust pipes together and flared wheel arches plus a different front bumper. This does not include the Z3M, which had quad exhausts. Bostongrün, Montrealblau, Alpinweiss, Cosmosschwarz, Atalantablau, Dunkelgrün, Arktiksilber, Hellrot, Estorilblau, Dakargelb, Titansilber, Siennarot, Topasblau, Oxfordgrün II, Sterlinggrau, Saphirschwarz, Schwarz II were colors for the Z3 roadster and coupe.

Roadster (September 1995-2002)[edit]

Z3 with the optional hardtop roof.

The BMW E36/7 Z3 entered production in September 1995 as a 1996 model, with the earliest engines being the 1.8- and 1.9-liter. A 2.8l engine joined the lineup in 1996. Z3's could be ordered with a hardtop roof, which snapped onto special mounting points.

Coupe (1999-2002)[edit]

The BMW E36/8 Z3 entered production sometime in 1999 with its controversial shooting brake design, often being referred to by critics as the "breadbox." The coupe version, however, featured a chassis-stiffening hatch area, and only had 2.8 L, 3.0 L and 3.2 L (Z3M) engines available.

1.8 L, 1.9 L and 2.0 L[edit]

Standard equipment included a 5-speed manual gearbox, ABS, power steering, a driver airbag, electric mirrors, a single-layer convertible top and 15-inch wheels. Optional extras included a 4-speed automatic transmission (discontinued after 1998), automatic stability control, air conditioning, an electrically operated convertible top, leather seats and 16-inch alloy wheels. In some countries, the interior excluded leather fabrics. The 1.8 L and 1.9 L engines were sold only in Europe and in some parts of Asia.

After the facelift, the 1.8 L engine was replaced with the 1.9 L. The 1.9 engine produced less power than the 1.8. The 2.0 L engine produced 10 more horsepower than the 1.9 L engine, and made 16-inch wheels standard. 1.8 L engines featured 114 hp and 168 Nm of torque, giving a 0-60-mph time of around 10 seconds.

2.2 L/2.3 L[edit]

In 2000, the 2.2 L inline 6-cylinder engine from the E46 3-Series was introduced. The 2.2 L was sold in the US but was badged as a Z3 2.3 L. The 2.2 L featured Dual VANOS and produced 148 hp and 190 Nm of torque. It gave a 0-60 time of 7-8 seconds.

2.5 L/2.8 L[edit]

Standard equipment included all standard features from the 1.8 L and 1.9 L engines, as well as a 25% limited-slip [what does this mean? -ed] differential, leather seats, an on-board computer, 16-inch wheels and automatic stability control. Options included a 4-speed automatic gearbox, air conditioning, sport seats, an electric roof, leather seats and dashboard, passenger-side airbag and an "M" steering wheel.

For coupe versions, a trunk storage net and sunroof were optional. The Z3 also featured Dual VANOS in 1999. After the facelift, the 2.8 L engine was available for another year. Production was ceased in June 2000. The 2.8 was then replaced by the 3.0 L engine.

3.0 L[edit]

The 3.0 L engine arrived with the 2.2 L engine in early 2000. Both featured the inline 6 from the E46 3 series, and both were considered to be fairly reliable. Standard equipment was the same as offered with the 2.0 L engine, with options including an on-board computer and 17-inch wheels.

The 3.0 L engine produced 228 Lhp and 280 LNm of torque, a noticeable increase over the 2.8 L. The 2.8 L was also regarded as the most reliable and fun engine in the Z3 lineup, but the 3.0 was the most powerful of the non-M engines.

Sport Edition Models[edit]

2002 Z3M Coupe.

The Sport Edition option was available in models with the 1.9, 2.2 and 3.0 L engine, and cost around USD $3000. Models featured bigger and sportier 17-inch wheels, a slightly different front bumper, slightly lower springs, brushed aluminium trim, a 3-color stitched M steering wheel, and an illuminated M gear lever. All Sport Edition models came with sport seats, usually found with a bi-color interior. No M package existed before the 2000 model year, although a rare sports package was available from its release until 1999.

Z3M (3.2 L)[edit]

The Z3M is often referred to as the M Roadster or M Coupe and can be identified as different from the standard Z3. Differences include a more aerodynamic front bumper (with no fog lights), a rear bumper designed to fit quad exhausts, temperature and oil gauges (in the center console), an M sports steering wheel and gear lever, M seats and 17-inch M wheels. Outside mirrors also have a more aerodynamic design. The front fenders on Z3M models are different as well, with a chrome strip running through them. Z3M models did not share cosmetic changes from the facelift, but they had bigger brakes, and the S54 engine replaced the S50.

US versions had restricted power to cope with federal regulations, and US and Japanese Z3's also featured square license-plate holders. Options included a chrome exterior package, a Harmon Kardon sound system and CD changer. Colors Bostongrün, Alpinweiss, Cosmosschwarz, Arktiksilber, Estorilblau, Dakargelb, Kyalami, Titansilber, Evergreen, Stahlgrau, Imolarot, Palmetto II, Oxfordgrün II, Phoenixgelb, Laguna Seca Blau, Saphirschwarz were available for the Z3M roadster and coupe.

Engine Figures[edit]

Pre-Facelift Roadster Models
Years Weight Engine Align. CC Power Torque Top Speed 0-60
1.8l 1996-2000 1160kg (2557lbs) M43B18 I4 1796cc 85kW/116PS/114 hp@5500 168Nm/124ft-lb@3900 121mph (194kmh) 10.1s
1.9l 1996-2002 1185kg (2612lbs) M44B19 I4 1895cc 103kW/140PS/138 hp@6000 180Nm/133ft-lb@4300 127mph (205kmh) 9.1s
2.8l 1996-2000 1260kg (2778lbs) M52B28 I6 2793cc 152kW/207PS/205hp@5300 278Nm/206ft-lb@3950 144mph (231kmh) 6.6s
Z3M 1997-2000 1350kg (2976lbs) S50B32 I6 3201cc 178kW/244PS/240hp@6000 285Nm/210ft-lb@3250 155mph (250kmh) 5.2s
Facelift Roadster Models
Years Weight Engine Align. CC Power Torque Top Speed 0-60
1.9l 1996-2002 1220kg (2690lbs) M43B19 I4 1895cc 87kW/118PS/117hp@ 5500 180Nm/133 ft-lb@3900 122mph (196kmh) 10.0s
2.0l 1999-2000 1270kg (2800lbs) M52B20TU I6 1990cc 110kW/150PS/148hp@5900 190Nm/140ft-lb@3500 131mph (210kmh) 8.5s
2.2l 2000-2002 1280kg (2822lbs) M54B22 I6 2171cc 125kW/170PS/168hp@6100 210Nm/155ft-lb@3500 139mph (224kmh) 7.6s
2.8l 1996-2000 1285kg (2833lbs) M52B28TU I6 2793cc 152kW/207PS/205hp@5300 280Nm/206 ft-lb@3500 144mph (231kmh) 6.6s
3.0l 2000-2002 1315kg (2899lbs) M54B30 I6 2979cc 170kW/231PS/228hp@5900 300Nm/221ft-lb@3500 149mph (240kmh) 5.8s
Z3M 2000-2002 1350kg (2976lbs) S54B32 I6 3246cc 239kW/325PS/320hp@7400 350Nm/240ft-lb@4900 155mph (250kmh) 5.1s
Pre-Facelift Coupe Models
Years Weight Engine Align. CC Power Torque Top Speed 0-60
2.8l 1998-2000 1300kg (2866lbs) M52B28 I6 2793cc 142kW/193PS/190hp@5300 280Nm/206ft-lb@3950 144mph (231kmh) 6.5s
Z3M 1998-2002 1390kg (3064lbs) S50B32 I6 3201cc 178kW/244PS/240hp@7400 285Nm/210ft-lb@3250 155mph (250kmh) 5.2s
Facelift Coupe Models
Years Weight Engine Align. CC Power Torque Top Speed 0-60
3.0l 2000-2002 1330kg (2932lbs) M54B30 I6 2979cc 170kW/231PS/228hp@5900 300Nm/221ft-lb@3500 155mph (250kmh) 5.8s
Z3M 1998-2002 1375kg (3031lbs) S54B32 I6 3246cc 239kW/325PS/320hp@7400 350Nm/258ft-lb@4900 155mph (250kmh) 5.1s

Production Units[edit]

Model Pre/Facelift Model Year Production Units
Z3 1.8l Roadster Pre-Facelift 1995-1998 29,509
Z3 1.9l Roadster Pre-Facelift 1995-1998 76,063
Z3 1.9l Roadster Facelift 1999 1,902
Z3 2.0l Roadster Facelift 1999-2000 14,616
Z3 2.2l Roadster Facelift 2000-2002 21,052
Z3 2.3l Roadster Facelift (US) 1998-2000 22,282
Z3 2.5l Roadster Facelift (US) 2000-2002 6,813
Z3 2.8l Roadster Pre-Facelift 1996-1998 35,368
Z3 2.8l Roadster Facelift 1998-2000 15,239
Z3 2.8l Coupe Pre-Facelift 1997-2000 7,671
Z3 3.0l Roadster Facelift 2000-2002 14,525
Z3 3.0l Coupe Facelift 2000-2002 3,853
Z3M Roadster Pre-Facelift (UK and US) 1997-2000 13,413
Z3M Roadster Facelift (UK and US) 2001-2002 1,909
Z3M Coupe Pre-Facelift (UK and US) 1998-2000 5,179
Z3M Coupe Facelift (UK and US) 2001-2002 1,112
Total 279,273 and 17,815 (Coupe)
297,088 (1.8l LCI Engines Not Shown)

Special Models[edit]

007 Bond Edition[edit]

Z3 Roadster James Bond Edition.jpg

A blue BMW Z3 roadster prototype was provided for filming of the James Bond movie GoldenEye at the Leavesden Aerodrome in January 1995.[5][6] Karen Sortito was responsible for the campaign, and sales of the car spiked as the movie hit number one at the Box Office. More than 15,000 roadsters were sold out by the time the car was introduced for the 1996 production run, and the Z3 appeared briefly when Bond was driving in Cuba.[2] The Z3's appearance in the film was controversial however, as it was the first non-British production car to appear in a Bond film, but the Z3 was also one of the few Bond cars that is not destroyed. In the movie, the car featured stinger missiles hidden behind the headlights, an emergency parachute braking system and a radar scanner in the form of a LCD screen in the dashboard. It is also noted during the briefing scene, that the car contains a passenger ejector seat and a self-destruct system.

A Bond 007 Z3 was available for purchase in the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog for USD$35,000. BMW and Neiman Marcus had originally set a 20 unit sales goal, but was later increased to 100 units after receiving 100 orders. The BMW Z3 007 Edition featured a 007 dash plaque, a Hi-Fi system with a subwoofer and CD, a telephone, beige leather seats, 007 Bond floor mats, a wind deflector, special wheels and a wooden gear shifter, centre console and steering wheel. The exterior colour was called Bond Blue Gray. Buyers also had a choice of a manual or automatic transmission.

BMW M Coupe Millennium Edition[edit]

The BMW M Coupe Millennium Edition was made by BMW Technik in 2000 for Auto Motor Und Sport Magazine, and one example was made and could be obtained by a draw. The winner stated that he had won the contest, and could choose one of three colours for the car. The colours matched the interior colour, and chose a colour called Orangeblur. The car was up for sale in April 2015.

BMW V12 Z3M[edit]

Z3 Coupe Side.

The BMW V12 Z3M featured a V12 engine borrowed from the 850i BMW 8 Series and had a 6 speed gearbox. Only one example was made and was developed by the BMW M division, and is in Kyalami Orange.

BMW Z3M Coupe Safety Car[edit]

The safety car variant of the Z3M Coupe was also produced by the BMW M division and produced 522hp. Like other BMW safety cars, it was produced to be the safety car in MotoGP, but was rarely used. It was up for sale in 2005.

Duesen Bayern Mystar[edit]

The Duesen Bayern Mystar was introduced in February 2002, by Japanese automobile brand and manufacturer Duesen Bayern who base their cars off other automobile brands. The Duesen Bayern Mystar was the company’s first car, with an exterior resembling the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL and an interior from the BMW Z3.[7][8]

Model Updates[edit]

Yearly Changes[edit]

Year Changes
1995 Production of the BMW Z3 Roadster began in September 20 as a 1996 model year. The James Bond film GoldenEye is released on November 17 and features a Z3.
1996 Production of the E36 318i 3 Series (both cars were produced in the same plant) is suspended to focus on production of the Z3. Production of the 318i was then stopped in July.
1997 The 100,000th BMW Z3 comes off the assembly line on October 30.Traction Control became standard equipment and a 2.8 litre engine joined the lineup.
1998 Hardware for rollover bars became standard (roll bars remained an option). A wood trim and a power soft top were added as options and a Z3M roadster was introduced.
1999 Dual stage side airbags became standard equipment. A Z3(M) Coupe was introduced. Central locking locks the gas cap from April and the 2.8 litre engine received dual VANOS.
2000 All BMW Z3’s went through facelift and the Harmon Kardon audio was upgraded. BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control replaced automatic stability control (ASC).
2001 M52 and S52 cars changed to M54 and S52 engines. All BMW Z3M models featured a low tire pressure warning system. The 250,000th BMW Z3 comes off the assembly line in February.
2002 An in-dash CD player was made a standard feature and the last BMW Z3 comes off the assembly line in June 28, 2002.[1]

2000 Facelift (LCI)[edit]

Production of facelifted models arrived sometime in 1999 as year-model 2000. Tail lights were now more rounded and L-shaped, and the trunk release button had a finger indent. The new trunk design accommodated the L-shaped lights and the indent. The car incorporated a wider axle, although the wheel arches for all models were the same, not flared. The facelifted CHMSL brake light was silver and more upright, its top painted in body color. Headlight halos were rimmed in chrome, and the grille became slightly rounder and less chromed.

Center console buttons were rearranged, with the clock in the middle. The convertible top received three layers of insulation instead of one for better weather protection. Facelifted models could also be ordered with optional side airbags, detectable as two separate trim panels in the doors.


The BMW Z3 won the "Super Reggie" award for the best promotional marketing campaign of 1995
The BMW Z3 2.8 made Editor's Most Wanted Vehicle for 1999 (
The BMW Z3 made European Car Magazine Grand Prix winner in 1999
The 2000 BMW Z3 2.3 made "The Best Overall Value of the Year" - "Base Sport" category winner by Intellichoice

The M Coupe/M Roadster made Car and Driver magazine's "Ten Best" list for 1999[9]
"Design of the Year" award for the M Coupe in Automobile Magazine (1999)
The 2000 BMW M Coupe became Top Gear (TV) Best Driver's Car of the Year[10]
Jalopnik's included the M Coupe in their "Best 10 Cars of the Decade" feature[11]
The BMW M Coupe was chosen as one of "Hammond's Icons" by Top Gear in 2011[12]


  1. ^ a b "Timeline: BMW in Spartanburg". 
  2. ^ a b "Karen Sortito dies at 49; marketing exec negotiated product tie-ins to Bond movies". latimes. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "DPMAregister - Designs - Registerauskunft zum Design". 
  5. ^ "The Milwaukee Sentinel - Google News Archive Search". 
  6. ^ "BMW RELEASES FIRST OFFICIAL VIDEO IMAGES OF ROADSTER Satellite Debut for James Bond's New Car". 
  7. ^ "BMW Z3 Customized To Look Like A Mercedes 190 SL - Picture 141590". Top Speed. 
  8. ^ Mike Spinelli. "More Replicas from Duesen Bayern". Jalopnik. 
  9. ^ Car and Driver 10Best
  10. ^ Top Gear 'best drivers car' award winner 2000. YouTube. 28 March 2013. 
  11. ^ Sam Smith. "Jalopnik's Best10 Cars Of The Decade". Jalopnik. 
  12. ^